Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declared on Friday that evidence surrounding the alleged poisoning of dissident Alexey Navalny featured too many “absurd inconsistencies” to be taken at face value.
Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent internal opponent, fell gravely ill on a flight to Moscow last month after being poisoned with what German doctors have identified as a type of Novichok, a Russian chemical weapon. Navalny’s team succeeded in flying him to Germany, where his condition eventually stabilized and he began breathing independently. This week, he confirmed his intention to return to Russia after he completes recovery.
Navalny’s is the latest in a series of cases in which evidence has suggested the Russian used Novichok against political opponents.
Addressing journalists at a press briefing on Friday, Peskov responded to reports that traces of a Novichok nerve agent were discovered in Navalny’s hotel room in Siberia. Laboratories in both France and Germany have both corroborated the claim this substance was used.
“There is too much absurdity about this whole situation to take anyone’s word on trust, so we are not going to take anyone’s word,” Peskov said. “We cannot explain this, because this bottle, if it ever existed, had been taken somewhere in Germany or elsewhere. This means that an object that could serve as evidence of poisoning has been shipped away. This is yet another question: why and so on.”
Peskov went on to cite “toxicology experts” who claim that such a scenario is highly unlikely due to the nature of transporting chemical agents.
“The amount of the absurd and the number of questions keeps growing every day,” he contended. “The only thing that could shed some light on what happened is the exchange of information, exchange of biological materials, exchange of evidence and joint work, including that of medics, and so forth, on analyzing the situation.”
If there had been any traces of chemical weapons on Russian territory, then, of course, the president would have been briefed immediately. That would have been a total emergency. The thing is that we are told: ‘here are the Novichok traces on the bottle.’ But a specialist says that, if there were traces of the Novichok on the bottle, then people, who touched it or at least were nearby, could have been affected. This totally contradicts the conclusions of the experts.
If there was a bottle, why was it transported somewhere? Then maybe, someone does not want an investigation to take place? I don’t know if our law enforcement seeks to find this out or not.
The incident has heightened tensions between Europe and Russia. Members of the European Parliament (MEP’s) passed a resolution this week to impose sanctions against Moscow for their alleged role in the poisoning, denouncing it as “part of a systemic effort to silence dissident voices in Russia.”
“Parliament strongly condemns the attempt to assassinate prominent Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny with a nerve agent,” they said in a statement. “The text notes that the poison used, belonging to the ‘Novichok group,’ can only be developed in state-owned military laboratories and cannot be acquired by private individuals, which strongly implies that Russian authorities were behind the attack.”
It is not the first time that the Russian state has been accused of employing Novichok nerve agents against their political enemies. In March 2018, Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer and double agent for British intelligence, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, were poisoned in the English city with Novichok. The pair eventually made a full recovery, although one woman died after coming into contact with the chemical, and the attack served to worsen relations between Russia and the west.